The story of Noah opens with the following:
These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.
What does perfect in his generations mean? Is the Torah saying Noah was a great man only by a comparison to the rest of society? It doesn’t take that much to be the best when you’re surrounded by murders and thieves. Or is the Torah saying that it was even harder for him to be righteous because of the time he lived in? That he managed to be great with no one supporting him, with no teachers, no mentors, and everyone was against him. Basically had he lived in later generations, would Noah have measured up to Abraham or Moses?
Who’s gonna argue with God?
All three men talked with God and for all three men God announced cataclysmic destruction. For Abraham it was Sodom and Gomorrah. For Moses it was the Jewish people after the golden calf. Abraham argues with God in the following:
…to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. It would be sacrilege to attribute this to You: Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice? Bereishis 18:25
Abraham and God argue for a while about how many need to be innocent for everyone to be spared, but ultimately Abraham is unable to find 5 good people. He loses, but he tries. With Moses, he has been with God 40 days and is about to bring the 10 Commandments down from Sinai. God tells Moses that the Jewish people are worshiping an idol.
Now leave Me alone, and My anger will be kindled against them so that I will annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation. Shemos 32:11
Moses is being presented the same opportunity as Noah, to be the father of the Jewish people. And how does he respond?
Moses pleaded before the Lord, his God, and said: “Why, O Lord, should Your anger be kindled against Your people whom You have brought up from the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? Why should the Egyptians say: ‘He brought them out with evil [intent] to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from upon the face of the earth’? Retreat from the heat of Your anger and reconsider…
And even after Moses sees the Jewish people committing idolatry he smashes the tablets and comes back to God, pleading once again.
And now, [please] forgive their sin. But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written. Shemos 31:32
Moses has some balls. One, to say God you’re wrong. Two, to refuse to be the father of God’s nation. And three, to say don’t even put me in the Torah!!!
So what was Noah’s response?
And so then we go to Noah. Looking at Bereishis chapter 6, God gives Noah pages of instructions about building the ark, how people are going to die, that Noah’s going to be the father of the world etc. And at the end of it what is Noah’s response?
And Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.
Then chapter 7 starts and God goes back to giving Noah instructions; enter the ark, get pairs of kosher animals, rain’s going to fall for 40 days, etc. and that all ends again with…
And Noah did, according to all that the Lord had commanded him.
Why the redundancy? Why not just have a really long paragraph of God’s instruction followed by “and Noah did it”? The Torah is pointing out two separate times Noah had an opportunity to change the fate of the world. The first time Noah could have pleaded with God, he could have used the opportunity to change those around him. By the second time he had built the ark, he was ready to go, but he was given one last chance to plead for salvation of the generation. And he didn’t.
What was Noah missing?
When someone like Noah or Moses or Abraham or anyone argue’s with God, what are they really doing? Can you really change an infinite being’s mind? A being who knows everything, past, present, and future? Is there any evidence you can show God he doesn’t already know? Of course not! So what’s going on with these arguments? The important thing to remember when dealing with all of Torah and really all of life when looking at it from a religious perspective is the following: It’s all for us.
The events of the Torah exist to affect you today. The challenges of your life are for you to grow. So when God threatens to wipe out a people and one of the forefathers stands up and says NO, it’s for them to realize that they need to be doing more to save humanity. For Moses, he recognized how far the Jewish people had fallen and he said to God “they are my responsibility.” For Abraham, he made the effort and though he lost, one of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was sparred.
Noah wasn’t willing to take responsibility for that world. He unfortunately had the mentality of isolation. “They’re doing their thing, I’m doing mine.” As we’ll learn in a couple of weeks with Jacob, to be a Jew is to wrestle with God. And Noah wasn’t a Jew, that didn’t exist yet. But there is a reason he’s not considered the father of the Jewish people.